The Overcoat

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin Character Analysis

A low-level official clerk in an unknown department in the Russian government. Akaky Akakievich is a short man with an “unmemorable” appearance. He is somewhat educated, and not at the lowest rank of bureaucracy, but he is still very poor. Akaky lives an extremely mundane life: both in and out of his department, he spends all of his time diligently copying documents. While his fellow officials are out socializing, Akaky prefers to spend his evening hours at home, finding contentment in his repetitive labor. Gogol’s story revolves around Akaky’s struggle to contend with St. Petersburg’s bitter cold, which forces him to purchase a new overcoat—a mission that endows Akaky’s existence with greater meaning.

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin Quotes in The Overcoat

The The Overcoat quotes below are all either spoken by Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin or refer to Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Overcoat published in 2006.
The Overcoat Quotes

In one of our government departments…but perhaps I had better not say exactly which one. For no one’s more touchy than people in government departments, regiments, chancelleries or, in short, any kind of official body. Nowadays every private citizen thinks the whole of society is insulted when he himself is.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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As for his rank in the civil service…he belonged to the species known as eternal titular counsellor, for far too long now, as we all know, mocked and jeered by certain writers with the very commendable habit of attacking those who are in no position to retaliate. His surname was Bashmachkin, which all too plainly was at some time derived from bashmak.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in rep

The child was christened and during the ceremony he burst into tears and made such a face it was plain that he knew there and then that he was fated to be a titular counsellor. So, that’s how it all came about. The reason for all this narrative is to enable our reader to judge for himself that the whole train of events was absolutely predetermined and that for Akaky to have any other name was quite impossible.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

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No matter how many directors and principals came and went, he was always to be seen in precisely the same place, sitting in exactly the same position, doing exactly the same work—just routine copying, pure and simple. Subsequently everyone came to believe that he had come into this world already equipped for his job, complete with uniform and bald patch.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

And for a long time afterwards, even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: “Leave me alone, why do you have to torment me?” And in these piercing words he could hear the sound of others: “I am your brother.” The poor young man would bury his face in his hands and many times later in life shuddered at the thought of how brutal men could be and how the most refined manners and breeding often concealed the most savage coarseness, even, dear God, in someone universally recognized for his honesty and uprightness...

Related Characters: Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), The Young Official
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

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One would be hard put to find a man anywhere who so lived for his work. To say he worked with zeal would be an understatement: no, he worked with love. In that copying of his he glimpsed a whole varied and pleasant world of his own… Apart from this copying nothing else existed as far as he was concerned.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaeca

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“I'm afraid it can't be done, sir,” replied Petrovich firmly. “It's too far gone. You'd be better off if you cut it up for the winter and made some leggings with it, because socks aren't any good in the really cold weather. The Germans invented them as they thought they could make money out of them.” (Petrovich liked to have a dig at Germans.) “As for the coat, you'll have to have a new one, sir.”
The word “new” made Akaky's eyes cloud over and everything in the room began to swim round. All he could see clearly was the pasted-over face of the general on Petrovich's snuff-box.

Related Characters: Petrovich (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

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Frankly, Akaky Akakievich found these privations quite a burden to begin with, but after a while he got used to them. He even trained himself to go without any food at all in the evenings, for his nourishment was spiritual, his thoughts always full of that overcoat which one day was to be his. From that time onwards his whole life seemed to have become richer, as though he had married and another human being was by his side. It was as if he was not alone at all but had some pleasant companion who had agreed to tread life's path together with him; and this companion was none other than the overcoat with its thick cotton-wool padding and strong lining, made to last a lifetime. He livened up and, like a man who has set himself a goal, became more determined.

Related Characters: Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

It was...precisely which day it is difficult to say, but without any doubt it was the most triumphant day in Akaky Akakievich's whole life when Petrovich at last delivered the overcoat… Petrovich delivered the overcoat in person—just as a good tailor should. Akaky Akakievich had never seen him looking so solemn before. He seemed to know full well that his was no mean achievement, and that he had suddenly shown by his own work the gulf separating tailors who only relined or patched up overcoats from those who make new ones, right from the beginning.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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At first Akaky Akakievich had to pass through some badly lit, deserted streets, but the nearer he got to the civil servant's flat the more lively and crowded they became, and the brighter the lamps shone. More and more people dashed by and he began to meet beautifully dressed ladies, and men with beaver collars. Here there were not so many cheap cabmen with their wooden basketwork sleighs studded with gilt nails. Instead, there were dashing coachmen with elegant cabs, wearing crimson velvet caps, their sleighs lacquered and covered with bearskins. Carriages with draped boxes simply flew down the streets with their wheels screeching over the snow.
Akaky Akakievich surveyed this scene as though he had never witnessed anything like it in his life. For some years now he had not ventured out at all in the evenings.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

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Although he was somewhat overwhelmed by this reception, since he was a rather simple-minded and ingenuous person, he could not help feeling glad at the praises showered on his overcoat. And then, it goes without saying, they abandoned him, overcoat included, and turned their attention to the customary whist tables. All the noise and conversation and crowds of people—this was a completely new world for Akaky Akakievich. He simply did not know what to do, where to put his hands or feet or any other part of himself.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The story of the stolen overcoat touched many of the clerks, although a few of them could not refrain from laughing at Akaky Akakievich even then. There and then they decided to make a collection, but all they raised was a miserable little sum since, apart from any extra expense, they had nearly exhausted all their funds subscribing to a new portrait of the Director as well as to some book or other recommended by one of the heads of department—who happened to be a friend of the author. So they collected next to nothing.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“What do you mean by this, my dear sir?” he snapped again. “Are you unaware of the correct procedure? Where do you think you are? Don't you know how things are conducted here? It's high time you knew that first of all your application must be handed in at the main office, then taken to the chief clerk, then to the departmental director, then to my secretary, who then submits it to me for consideration...”
“But Your Excellency,” said Akaky Akakievich, trying to summon up the small handful of courage he possessed… “I took the liberty of disturbing Your Excellency because, well, secretaries, you know, are a rather unreliable lot...”
“What, what, what?” cried the Important Person. “Where did you learn such impudence? Where did you get those ideas from? What rebellious attitude towards their heads of department and superiors has infected young men these days?”

Related Characters: Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (speaker), The Important Person (speaker), The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 165-166
Explanation and Analysis:

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Finally poor Akaky Akakievich gave up the ghost. Neither his room nor what he had in the way of belongings was sealed off, in the first place, because he had no family, and in the second place, because his worldly possessions did not amount to very much at all… Whom all this went to, God only knows, and the author of this story confesses that he is not even interested. Akaky Akakievich was carted away and buried. And St Petersburg carried on without its Akaky Akakievich just as though he had never even existed.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

So vanished and disappeared for ever a human being whom no one ever thought of protecting, who was dear to no one, in whom no one was the least interested, not even the naturalist who cannot resist sticking a pin in a common fly and examining it under the microscope; a being who endured the mockery of his colleagues without protesting, who went to his grave without achieving anything in his life, but to whom, nonetheless (just before the end of his life) a shining visitor in the form of an overcoat suddenly appeared, brightening his wretched life for one fleeting moment; a being upon whose head disaster had cruelly fallen, just as it falls upon the kings and great ones of this earth...

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

But the Important Person's terror passed all bounds when the ghost's mouth became twisted, smelling horribly of the grave as it breathed on him and pronounced the following words: “Ah, at last I've found you! Now I've, er, hm, collared you! It's your overcoat I'm after! You didn't care about mine, and you couldn't resist giving me a good ticking-off into the bargain! Now hand over your overcoat!” The poor Important Person nearly died. However much strength of character he displayed in the office (usually in the presence of his subordinates)… he was so frightened that he even began to fear (and not without reason) that he was in for a heart attack.

Related Characters: Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), The Important Person
Related Symbols: The Overcoat
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

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Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin Character Timeline in The Overcoat

The timeline below shows where the character Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin appears in The Overcoat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Overcoat
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
...the start of the story, the Narrator stops himself from naming the department in which Akaky Akakievich, the main character in his tale, worked. The Narrator decides that it is better... (full context)
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
The Narrator then goes on to introduce Akaky Akakievich as a civil servant in a “certain department” in St. Petersburg. He is a... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
The Narrator claims that no one remembers how Akaky Akakievich was appointed to his specific department. Nevertheless, Akaky is a constant presence there—however much... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
Akaky loves his job as a copyist so much that he makes it his entire life.... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
The Narrator says that Akaky is “perfectly happy with his lot,” but that St. Petersburg harbors a major obstacle to... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
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Akaky, noting that Petrovich appears to be sober, is worried that he will not be able... (full context)
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
Akaky resolves to return to Petrovich on Sunday morning to try to bargain for his coat.... (full context)
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Akaky resolves to deprive himself of many of his ordinary expenses. He stops drinking tea at... (full context)
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
...lowest price possible. The Narrator states that it was probably the most triumphant day of Akaky’s life when Petrovich personally delivers the overcoat to his home. The coat arrives just in... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
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At his department, everyone congratulates Akaky on his new overcoat. They insist that the event must be celebrated, and that Akaky... (full context)
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
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Akaky gazes with awe upon the high society populating the streets around him. He has not... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
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Akaky reaches the assistant head clerk’s apartment and hangs up his overcoat. He enters the main... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
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Akaky leaves the party feeling happy. In a flight of fancy, he runs after a lady... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
When he recovers, Akaky runs to the watchman in the middle of the square. Sobbing, he shouts at the... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
The next morning, Akaky goes to the Superintendent’s house, but is told that the Superintendent is asleep. Akaky returns... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
That day, Akaky does not go to his department, but he shows up to work the following morning... (full context)
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Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
Akaky decides to seek the help of the Important Person. The Narrator states that the official... (full context)
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Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
When Akaky visits the Important Person, the official is chatting with an old friend, and uses Akaky’s... (full context)
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Akaky, feeling numb, walks home in a snowstorm. The next day, he is overtaken by a... (full context)
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The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
Akaky finally dies and is buried. No one takes an inventory of his possessions, as he... (full context)
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
Soon after Akaky’s death, a rumor spreads through the city that a ghost has been appearing on the... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
The Narrator turns our attention back to the Important Person. He notes that after kicking Akaky out of his office, the Important Person felt guilty, and thought of the clerk frequently... (full context)
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Materialism, Material Goods, and Art Theme Icon
...hand on his collar. He turns around and sees a short man in an old uniform—Akaky Akakievich. The ghost is very pale. Akaky opens his putrid-smelling mouth and demands that the... (full context)
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
...watchman turned away immediately. But, the Narrator says, this ghost was too tall to be Akaky. It wore a large mustache, and went off toward the Obukhoff Bridge. (full context)